High-profile incidents of gun violence in schools across the country have escalated demand from parents, teachers, policymakers, and school leaders for stronger school safety interventions. School-based law enforcement (SBLE) has become a standard intervention, growing steadily over the past several decades. However, a new report, co-written by the JPRC team with Professor Ben Fisher of the University of Wisconsin, indicates this strategy has not demonstrated effectiveness. Published by the international Campbell Collaboration, the review summarizes 32 evaluations that looked at any outcomes of SBLE implementation related to crime and behavior, perceptions of safety, and learning outcomes. Results indicate that SBLE presence is linked with an increase in school crime and behavior problems and is associated with increases in school discipline.

“Schools aiming to enhance safety might benefit by shifting resources away from using school-based law enforcement,” said Fisher, the study’s lead author. “Instead, investing in evidence-based strategies, such as school climate improvement designed to prevent problematic behaviors and improve school safety, could yield more positive outcomes.”

The following findings challenge the notion that SBLE contributes positively to students’ overall safety and well-being.

Key findings:

• There was no demonstrated reduction in crime and violence.

• Consistent with other research, SBLE was associated with an increase in exclusionary discipline such as out-of-school suspension.

• There was mixed evidence on whether SBLE makes students and staff feel safer, but this was based on very few studies.

“This study highlights the need for a thoughtful and evidence-based approach to school safety,” said JPRC Director and study co-author Anthony Petrosino. “For schools currently utilizing school-based law enforcement, we recommend a careful examination to ensure that the model has no harmful effects on students, such as exclusionary discipline—and is genuinely providing safety benefits for students and staff.”

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